Vienna archdiocese has child abuse ombudsman

The Roman Catholic Vienna archdiocese has had an ombudsmen for sexual abuse of children since 1996, it revealed today (Weds).Erich Leitenberger, the press spokesman for the Vienna archdiocese, said psychotherapist and psychiatrist Johannes Wancata was the current ombudsman.Wancata said: “We are at the victims’ disposal. We take every suspicion seriously and are prepared to follow up even with legal action, if necessary.”If the person allegedly guilty of sexual abuse of children was a clergyman, his superiors would be informed, he added. “It is a matter of trying to protect future potential victims,” he said.Some victims wanted to remain anonymous, but others wanted to confront their former tormentors, Wancata said, adding that “we will do nothing against the will of a victim.”His colleagues would provide victims with therapeutic discussions and take other measures as appropriate, he noted.He said his office was investigating two cases of alleged child abuse at present.Leitenberger said there had been 17 cases of sexual abuse of children by clergy in Austria last year: eight in the Vienna archdiocese, two apiece in the Graz, St. Pölten and Innsbruck dioceses, and one apiece in the Linz, Salzburg and Eisenstadt dioceses.The Austrian Bishops Conference adopted a catalogue of measures to prevent sexual abuse of children in 2006.Leitenberger said: “Such abuse is not a trivial offence but grounds for expulsion from the priesthood.”Austria’s dioceses also have such ombudsmen. Not all are psychologists or psychiatrists, for a few are priests.